out of Five
Running time: 140
Thoroughly enjoyable drama with Spielberg, Hanks and DiCaprio all on top form – catch it if you can…
After a recent foray into relatively dark sci-fi fare for his two previous movies (A.I. and Minority Report – keep up at the back, there), Steven Spielberg has elected to return to seemingly more light-hearted subject matter for his latest film, a drama based on the true story of teenaged conman Frank Abagnale Jnr. Spielberg being Spielberg, he’s surrounded himself with the best that money can buy, from the superb cast to the characteristically superb score by John Williams, and the result is his most purely enjoyable film in ages.
The film opens with a terrific animated credits sequence that sets up the tone and plot of the film – a besuited stick-man chases another stick man through an airport, a hotel, a hospital, a courtroom etc, all to the strains of John Williams’ catchy, jazzy score.
Leonardo DiCaprio is perfectly cast as Frank Abagnale Jnr, a charming,
confident (yet not cocky) individual who gets his first taste of the con game while watching his father (Christopher Walken) trying to scam a bank into giving him a loan.
Shortly afterwards he seizes the opportunity to impersonate a substitute teacher at school – partly to revenge himself on a bully - and is soon caught, though his father can barely contain his pride (a great scene).
However, when Walken’s financial schemes come crashing down, Frank’s parents split up and he runs away. Taking a leaf out of his father’s book, he passes himself off as a trainee airline pilot and begins banking forged cheques…
The film is structurally interesting, with early scenes indicating that Tom Hanks’ dogged FBI agent (Carl Hanratty) eventually catches his prey and the ensuing flashbacks filling in the rest of the story.
The acting is superb. If you were a fan of DiCaprio before Titanic made him a mega-star, this is likely to make you remember what you saw in him in the first place. He has the perfect combination of charm and good old-fashioned chutzpah to make you believe that he actually gets away with as much as he does - his first encounter with Hanks is wonderfully, breath-takingly audacious.
Hanks is great too, for once reigning in his Mr Nice Guy image to play
Hanratty as, in effect, a rather lonely, obsessed, even boring individual - though naturally he and Frank bond. (In reality, the Hanratty character is an amalgam of several people).
However, there is also sterling work from Christopher Walken, who is truly heart breaking in his scenes with DiCaprio, conveying both sadness for and inexpressible pride in his son. (Indeed, Spielberg has long been obsessed with fathers and sons and it’s almost certainly this brilliantly observed relationship that drew him to the project).
The film is packed with great scenes (the James Bond scene; Frank’s
encounter with a hotel hooker, played by Jennifer Garner) and although the pace slows down towards the end, it never flags, despite its lengthy –ahem- ‘running’ time.
To sum up, Catch Me If You Can is a terrific ride with great characters, a great score and both director and leads firing on all cylinders. In short, it’s well worth catching, if you can.